A panel discussion titled ‘A Breath of Fresh Hope’ was held on 7 December 2023. This was a collaboration between the pharmaceutical division of Roche (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd and the Lung Cancer Network Malaysia (LCNM).
This panel discussion highlighted the alarming prevalence of lung cancer in non-smoking Malaysian women, the related medical implications of this prevalence, and the social stigma surrounding this cancer.
“Over 2.2 million lung cancer cases were reported in 2020 globally, and more than 770,000 of them were in women. Lung cancer is the third top malignancies seen in the global female population, after breast and colorectal cancers,” said Ms Deepti Saraf.
SHIFTING PUBLIC PERCEPTION OF LUNG CANCER
DR ANAND SACHITHANANDAN
Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon and Co-Founder of Lung Cancer Network
“The majority of lung cancer cases affect smokers. Having said that, we are now starting to see increasing numbers of cases of lung cancer in non-smokers, of whom women are overrepresented,” said Dr Anand.
Lung cancer does not affect smokers only; there are other risk factors that could put one could be at risk.
Dr Anand Sachithanadan revealed that fewer than 2% of Malaysian women smoke, but lung cancer is one of the main cancers that affect women in Malaysia.
Thus, contrary to popular perception, lung cancer does affect people that do not smoke, as outlined below.
Common lung cancer risk factors. Click on the image for a larger, clearer version.
BE AWARE OF THE SYMPTOMS OF LUNG CANCER—EVEN IF YOU DO NOT SMOKE
DR JENNIFER LEONG
Consultant Clinical Oncologist
Sunway Medical Centre
Dr Jennifer Leong told us, “Many women harbour the preconceived notion that because they don’t smoke, they are not at risk of lung cancer. At times, even when displaying typical symptoms, they can easily miss out on these symptoms and do not get the required medical attention in the earlier stages of disease, affecting their chances at longer survival.”
“While I wouldn’t say that lung cancer is preventable, it’s very much a curable disease provided that you can detect it early on,” she added.
On the other hand, ignoring or overlooking the early symptoms of lung cancer would lead one to seek medical treatment only when the cancer has advanced to a late stage, during which the chances of a positive outcome are far more diminished.
Dr Anand concurred with Dr Jennifer’s statement. He stated: “Lung cancer care has been revolutionized in the last four or five years, leading to significantly better outcomes for our patients as well as overall survival. Despite all these tremendous promises, the fact remains most patients are still being diagnosed late in stage.”
Common symptoms of lung cancer. Click on the image for a larger, clearer version.
WOMEN SHOULD PRIORITISE THEIR OWN HEALTH AS WELL AS THAT OF THEIR LOVED ONES
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR DR CARYN CHAN MEI HSIEN
Consultant Health Psychologist
Faculty of Health Sciences
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia
“Many women are expected to and are taught to prioritise the health of family, sometimes at the expense of their own health. Consequently, some women would ignore or dismiss their symptoms, or feel guilty when their medical treatments become a significant expense to the family,” said Associate Professor Dr Caryn Chan.
One unfortunate consequence of women putting the needs and well-being of others over their own is that they often neglect their own health.
Often, Associate Professor Dr Caryn Chan pointed out, they overlooked symptoms such as those of lung cancer, and seek medical attention only when their illness had deteriorated to an advanced stage.
This attitude on both the parts of women and society need to change. “Taking care of your health does not mean you are burdening the rest of the family,” Dr Caryn stated.
She also called for the family to come together to distribute caregiving and support responsibilities, typically delegated to a woman, across all capable family members. This way, a woman would have ample opportunity to also tend to her own needs and well-being.
BE MORE PROACTIVE IN DETECTING LUNG CANCER EARLY!
MS. DEEPTI SARAF
Roche Malaysia Sdn Bhd
“All of us have a part to play in raising awareness of lung cancer,” Ms Deepti Saraf reiterated while closing the panel discussion.
Be alert for symptoms.
If you, your loved ones, or your friends have symptoms, seek medical help.
If you are at high risk of lung cancer, consult your doctor.
The doctor can arrange for you to undergo regular screening to detect early the presence of cancer or other issues with your lungs.
This is an educational article brought to you by